Almost as thrilling as the news that Pat Cadigan has just won the Hugo Award for her novelette "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" from the anthology Edge of Infinity, is the realization that this is Pat's first Hugo. Well-deserved, and damned well-earned!

As hard to believe as that is, it's equally hard for me to believe that her career now extends more thana third of a century , back to her first stories in fan publications. Her career, like most writers' careers, has had its ups and downs, but the trajectory of that career — always a different thing from the temporal reality of any writer's career — has remained in the ascendant.

Edge of Infinity

That she was — and is — a writer of large ambition has been clear from the moment, in the early '80s when her "Deadpan Allie" stories began to appear, although it was probably her "Pretty Boy Crossover" that really began her breakout from new writer to major writer.

The Allie stories formed the kernel of her first novel, Mindplayers (1987), with its killer opening:

I did it on a dare. The type of thing where you know it's a mistake but you do it anyway because it seems to be Mistake Time.

No mistaking that voice and what it had to say — there was a writer in the room.

It was around this time too, maybe slightly before, that she became known as the "Queen of Cyberpunk." That she was, but so much more as well. Just how much more would begin to made clear as her second and third novels appeared, a year apart, in the early '90s.


That second novel, Synners (1991) pushed cyberpunk — and then some — in half a dozen simultaneous and simultaneously different directions, a huge leap in both craft and art over Mindplayers, and a major novel by any standards, not just those of cyberpunk.There was not a more complex, or more complexly provocative SF novel in the 1990s. It is the richest of her novels so far.

Her third,  Fools (1992), pushed matters of identity (real and virtual) even further. Though smaller in scope and girth than SynnersFools marked another advance in Pat Cadigan's craft, not to mention her art, and may be the best of her books (ditto "so far"), although Synners may still have the edge for me in the sheer size of the ambition that powers its narrative..   

Throughout the 90s she continued to write exceptionally good short fiction, for OMNI and elsewhere. She proved herself a fine nonfiction writer as well, as her 1995 "Carnival Diablo" piece, written for me at OMNI (actually it was written for OMNI's readers, who were the prime beficiaries as they were of the Cadigan fiction OMNI and OMNI Online published, but I'll bask in whatever reflective [sic] glory I can). 

Approaching and then entering the new century/millennium, Pat Cadigan began ringing changes, some subtle, some audacious, on her explorations of  virtual lives (and deaths) and virtual responsibilities, not to mention the nature of the virtual world's effects on the real world we were increasingly using our virtual connections to distance ourselves from. Her set of matched novels, Tea From an Empty Cup (1998), and Dervish is Digital (2001), marries -- and consummates the marriage! — of cyberpunk with procedural noir. The novels have a gritty reality and an even grittier virtual reality. They deserve to be better known than they are. Caveat (sorta): I am one of the dedicatees of  Tea, which doesn't affect at all the esteem with which I regard that novel.

Throughout all of this, Pat Cadigan was (and is) a working writer as well as a gifted and ambitious one. Much of her work over the past decade has been on assignment, movie tie-in novels, movie tie-in nonfiction, round-robin fiction, and more. She brings to each of those projects an impressive professionalism, delivering precisely the goods and then some that the publishers commissioned.

Throughout all of this, too, Pat has continued to produce a body of short fiction that is among the very best of her generation — and any other for that matter. Her stories continue to be highlights of the magazines and original anthologies in which they appear, as they are of the best of the Year anthologies they also inevitably (well, almost inevitably) appear in.

"The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi," in fact, can be found in Gardener Dzois' latest Best Science Fiction of the Year, along with a couple of hundred thousand words of other terrific SF. 

Her gifts for short fiction are even larger than her novelistic gifts, as any reader of the collections PatternsHome by the Seaor Dirty Work discovers quickly. It is high time for a collection or two of her recent work, and past high time for a Best of Pat Cadigan

What sets Pat's fiction apart is that for all the sharp edges, unflinching toughness, awareness of just how rotten humans can be, there is a humanity, a heart, that is most often revealed in a blood-fierce anger and rage at what we do to each other, and what our creations are doing to us. She hates much of what she sees in the world around her, and transmutes into the worlds she builds, but she hates it with love, and not gently.

Se can also be a very funny writer, and also not gently.

A wonderful writer, and a magnificent human being, one whom I am proud to call friend, as I also call her equally magnificent husband, the original one-and-only-they-broke-the-mold-when-they-made-him Christopher Fowler. Theirs is one of the best marriages I know of. Pat's son Robert Fenner is a grown man now, but based on who I to got know a little when I spent some time with him when he was a boy, I have no doubt that he is a fine man.

Now Pat is a Hugo winner, and about damned time. "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" (love that title!) may signal a new direction in her work, being set in a meticulously built and vividly realized outer solar system some time from now. It is interesting to see Pat working in space, as it were, and working it and its venue(s) as thoroughly and as originally as she has every other venue she has turned her talents to. Check out the story's opening:

Nine decs into her second hitch Fry hit a berg in the Main ring and broke her leg. And she didn’t just splinter the bone — compound fracture! Yow!

No mistaking that voice either — it's Pat Cadigan's.

It is clear that after three decades of gathering strength and power as a writer, Pat Cadigan is in the springtime of her career.I look forward to the blossoming and growing seasons ahead.

Still known as the "Queen of Cyberpunk," my own feeling is that Pat Cadigan is the Queen of whatever she wants to choose to become the Queen of, and long may she reign.


Kathleen Stein

There were moments in nearly every conversation with Kathleen Stein when you could sense that she was on the brink of saying something — or not saying it — and was weighing the words she would use, or not use to make a point or launch a critique or deflate a pomposity. Or just let things go.

Letting things go was not Stein's style. Generally, she chose to speak up, and when she did her words were always well-chosen, with attention paid to specificity if not to tact.

But that didn't matter — she was not being rude. There were points to be made, not points to be scored, and that very crucial difference set Kathleen apart conversationally as surely as did the quality of her arguments, her insights, her mind.

Kathleen died instantly last Sunday, in a fall during one of the hikes that she loved. 

Kathleen Stein and me.jpg

Stein, during her long — epic! — tenure as staff writer at OMNI, became one of the very best writers on science, and particularly neuroscience, in the country. Her stewardship of the magazine's legendary interviews is the prime reason they are legendary.She followed science with the assiduousness of a good reporter, and pursued its explication for general audiences with the enthusiasm of an evangelist. 

Which last is a strange, but deliberate choice of words — Kathleen had less use for or belief in anything supernatural or mystical than anyone I have ever known. She was a rationalist and an articulate one, who did not tolerate the word "nonbeliever" because it implied that there was something she chose not to believe in. Which she knew there wasn't.

She came to science writing and editing the old-fashioned way, working her way toward her own best metier one story at a time, in various fields.

She was a rock journalist for awhile, and a good one, writing for Circus, Creem, and others. Lester Bangs referred to her as "Kathi" Stein, but she used another variant spelling when, as Cathi Stein, she wrote Elton John: Rock's Piano Pounding Madman in 1975, when Elton"s and Stein's careers were both relatively new.

How she hated to have that little book mentioned! But she hated it with a twinkle — which she would deny existed — in her fierce eyes. It was an honest piece of work-for-her, quickie paperback dues-paying by a  journalist headed for other things.

Those other things could have been anything — Stein was interested in all of it, and could write well about any of it.

At OMNI she turned her interest in everything into writing, and editing, pieces on everything -- neuroscience was her passion, but she was a grand generalist, and could write as well about the broad intersections of science and culture, as she could about the minute and minutely specific details of cortical structure.   

It would be nearly a third of a century before her next book, The Genius Engine: Where Memory, Reason, Passion, Violence, and Creativity Intersect in the Human Brain and this time the byline was:

By Kathleen Stein.

Damned right — and a damned good book it is, a careful, and carefully written, examination of the prefrontal cortex. 

 The last time I saw Stein in person, she joined my son and me for a beer on a gorgeous New York Saturday afternoon, four years ago this week. We spoke often — though not, now, often enough — on the phone, but being with Stein in person was a richer wonder, one that I always looked forward to, even when I saw her nearly every day at the office.

That Saturday it had been a few years since I'd seen her in person, but she was still Stein — how could she not be — and in the course of a couple of hours the three of us spoke of many, many things.

At one point, we were talking of Norman Mailer, who had died just a few weeks before, and Stein said that his death felt "like one of the foundational pillars of the universe had been removed."

I feel that way now, about her, about a universe without her.

As I understand things, it was probably an injury to the prefrontal cortex that killed Kathleen last weekend. And if so, one can imagine that final instant of her consciousness being pure Stein, observing as she died the effects of gravity upon her own cortex.

That's too facile, of course, and far too easy a search for some comfort. Kathleen wouldn't have allowed me to get away with that, were she here to glance at this piece.

But she's not. 

I will miss her for the rest of my life, but I will also for the rest of my life be grateful for the pleasure and the privilege of having known Kathleen Stein.



John Stein said...

Keith, thank you for putting this out there. She loved her days with Omni, as well as her associates.

She was the most interesting person I ever met, proud to be her brother.

I miss her gigantically.

John stein

6:36 PM

Jonathan Randolph Long said...

Keith, Yes, thank you for putting this out there. Like you eloquently said, unfortunately, I now realize just how too little I saw her in person.

She was such a magnificently brilliant and inspirational woman. I'm truly honored to call her my Aunt Kathleen.

Jonathan "turtle" Long

10:54 PM

aj peterson said...


Kathleen was my best friend’s sister.

We grew up, sort of, revering her superior intellect. She and her sister controlled what they could but we scored, regardless. Kathleen was my surrogate sister and at the end of the day and through life I thought of her as a silent mentor.

She had a look that said just what needed spoken. I am so sorry to hear of her death. She will not be forgotten.

AJ Peterson Sarasota, Fl Stein’s friend for life...

5:08 PM

Julia Stein Long said...


On this first day- of the New Year, the first year in my entire life without my sister Kathleen as "a (monumental) pillar," I just want to belately thank you for this wonderful, insightful writing in celebration of her and her life.

Here you have given me, and her family and friends, a marvelous, lasting gift, that for which my words can hardly adequately describe our appreciation.

She spoke of you often, and I know she also treasured your friendship and expertise. Maybe one day we can meet.

Julia Stein Long ( Weeki Wachee, FL

2:12 PM


For six years and a bit I would see Bob several times a month, and sometimes several times a week, staying often at the homes he and Kathy Keeton created, both in Manhattan and Rhinebeck, dining with them equally often, often on Bob's pasta.

They were my employers, of course, during the years I edited OMNI, but away from the offices they were more than cordial friends, generous in conversation and eager to laugh. The many kindnesses they extended to me and especially to my wife had far less to do with business than with their natures.

Bob will be remembered always and inevitably — and of course accurately — as the man who reinvented and in many ways re-directed the course of adult magazines, built a great fortune and lost it, indulged his desire for both fine art and fine, in their own way, gaucheries, equally exuberant about both.

He was, I believe, a shy man in many ways. Not a hermit or recluse as he was sometimes portrayed. He simply had the resources (and how!) to create for himself environments in which he was so comfortable that there was rarely reason for him to leave.

One memorable night, though, I persuaded him to join me, my brother, Harlan Ellison, and Ellen Datlow for a meal in Chinatown. Hong Fat's, I cannot imagine, ever had a livelier table or a more wide-ranging conversation. I believe Bob enjoyed himself as much as anyone there.

He enjoyed as well, our back-and-forths over the magazine and its direction. OMNI was in so many ways Kathy Keeton's province that Bob's contributions to it, other than the magazine's at the time innovative design, have tended to be overlooked. But he was always interested in what was being covered and the covers themselves were his domain. The insides of the magazine he left to those of us who worked to assemble it every month. He and Kathy would set directions they wanted to see explored, make requests that a topic be covered (often in depth)

Even as his and Kathy's enthusiasm — and credulousness — for UFOs and their (they believed) occupants' purposes in visiting (they believed) Earth grew during the last few years of OMNI's print existence, they never once interfered with so much as a single skeptical sentence inside the publication.

Of course, Bob's less skeptical nature made for occasional schizophrenia when the covers and the cover lines occasionally expressed an enthusiasm for the possibility of "aliens among us" that OMNI's writers and researchers — and certainly not its editor — failed to share. Not the first time a publisher's packaging was designed to sell editorial material that didn't quite (to say the least) match his beliefs. It is to Bob and Kathy's credit that they understood this, and understood as well the need for the magazine to follow a more rational course when exploring phenomena. We laughed about it sometimes, and they stood always behind our editorial policies, whatever they personally believed.

Over the years after the magazine closed I remained in touch with Kathy, and had a long visit with her not long before her own death. I saw Bob around the time I departed from the company, and was touched by the appreciation he expressed for my years with OMNI and General Media, and his enjoyment of them. I felt the same way.

Bob would have been 80 in a couple of months, and while his last years saw him dealing with both health and financial challenges, they also saw him happily remarried and able, I understand, to devote more time to his own painting, which had been his lifelong ambition.

I will always see him in that fine kitchen on 67th Street, testing the pasta and his sauce, signaling that both were ready, inviting us to adjourn to the table where who-knows-what would be discussed.


Kirk said...

Very nice Keith...

12:27 PM

GabbyHayes said...

I was hoping you would take us inside that altogether welcoming and warm household. Time for a bio, don't you think? Hef's life has been 50% autobiography, but Bob's life was a mystery even to the people who worked with him.

1:16 PM

Keith Ferrell said...

Thanks, guys — it's interesting to see across the Web how very many fond memories of OMNI there are.

1:40 PM

Datlow said...

Lovely requiem, Keith.

5:08 PM

Karl said...

Keith, you wrote a very moving remembrance of Bob. You certainly revealed a side of him that most of us never had a chance to experience. I know he thought highly of you, and I can tell he made an impact on you, too, giving you some rare editorial opportunities. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

6:22 PM

Beth said...

Brings back my own fond memories. Thanks, Keith

8:25 PM

Pete Krull said...

Thanks Keith, well-written!

2:31 PM

rrlane said... You make me pause and reconsider opinions that I held fast to yet gave very little thought about as I was forming them. You give fitting and warm tribute.

10:20 PM

Caroline Dark Hare said...

Excellent remembrance Keith.

9:18 PM